- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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NFL Nation reporter Jamison Hensley assesses which Ravens rookies could earn a starting berth this season.
Why Breshad Perriman could start: The biggest reason Perriman will be given a chance to start immediately is he's the only Baltimore wide receiver outside of Steve Smith Sr. who can score a touchdown any time he touches the ball. There's a possibility the Ravens will begin the season by starting Kamar Aiken or Marlon Brown. But this would happen only if the Ravens don't want to put too much pressure on Perriman, or if the first-round pick doesn't progress as expected this summer. The Ravens used the No. 26 overall pick on Perriman because they needed someone who can replace Torrey Smith's role as a deep threat. At Central Florida last season, Perriman averaged 20.9 yards per catch and 33.1 yards per touchdown. He caught a touchdown in seven straight games. His size (6-foot-2, 212 pounds) and speed (4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his pro day) make him a potential No. 1 receiver. There are concerns about Perriman's hands and his consistency. Still, his speed is the perfect complement to QB Joe Flacco's strong arm. It would be extremely surprising if Perriman doesn't find a spot in the starting lineup at some point this season.
Why Maxx Williams could start: Williams' role in the Ravens' offense should come with an asterisk. It all depends on the health of tight end Dennis Pitta. If Pitta can't play this season or is limited because of issues with his hip, Williams becomes a bigger factor in Baltimore's passing attack. The Ravens traded up in the second round in order to get Williams, the draft's best insurance policy at tight end. Beyond Pitta, the only experienced tight end on the roster is Crockett Gillmore, who had 10 catches as a rookie last season. It was essential for the Ravens to get a dependable pass-catching tight end like Williams. Even if Pitta does play at some point this season, there will be a role for Williams. He is a rising playmaker who can stretch the field more than any other Baltimore tight end. Last season, 77.7 percent of his receptions at Minnesota (28 of 36) resulted in a first down or a touchdown. Williams led all college tight ends with nine catches of 25 yards or more. The Ravens have relied on second-round picks to make an impact immediately in recent years. Since 2011, three second-rounders (wide receiver Torrey Smith, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw and offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele) started eight-plus games as rookies. There's a chance Williams will add his name to that list in 2015.